Budget walking travel guide

Historic mule trails thread through the terraced hillsides of Kynthos, Greece. After a little clearing and a bit of mapping, they’ve proved to be excellent, ready-made hiking paths. The trails follow the traditional Cycladic drystone walls, so damage to the landscape is minimal. Eat in a local tavern at the end of the day and you’ve got yourself a really good value, low-impact vacation.
I think the people who saw us hiking on them got a real kick out of seeing these historic routes being used by visitors.
- Sandra Forrester said of her Greece walking vacation in Kynthos.
You’ll find that the best budget walking vacations tread very lightly, not just in Greece, but around the world. In Croatia, you can get from island to island on the local ferry. On the Amalfi Coast, you’ll be hopping aboard the local bus. In Catalonia, you can buy local provisions from a farmer’s market before your coastal walk. Want to know a convenient truth? Going on a budget walking vacation might be better for the environment – as well as your wallet.

Is budget walking for you?

Go on a budget walking vacation if...

... you’re interested in historic long-distance trails. Pilgrims were the original budget walkers, the Camino de Santiago in Spain is set up so that you can do it on the salary of a church mouse. ... you don’t mind catching the bus. Don’t hire a car. Instead pick a vacation which uses a sailing boat, a ferry, public transport or even a donkey, to help with luggage and transfers. ... you want to add another string to your bow. Walking combination vacations, where you might match a day of walking with sailing, or language lessons and cookery classes, are surprisingly budget-friendly. ... you’re keen on eating local. Agrotourism establishments mean that you could eat a full meal that’s all come from within a radius smaller than your day’s walk.

Don’t  go on a budget walking vacation if…

... you want constant creature comforts. Accommodation doesn’t have to be pricy to be cosy, but during the day you’ll be out in the open, with hot sun, or sudden rain. And, yes, you might get sore feet.
... you don’t want to share a room. On small group trips, the best way for solo travelers to beat the single supplement is to share your space.
... you like large hotels. From rifugios in Italy to family-run accommodation in Peru, locally owned hotels are often better value, with invaluable cultural exchange thrown in.
... you think budget means skimping on gear. At the very least, you need a good, versatile pair of shoes or walking boots, already worn in, and a selection of breathable and waterproof layers.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Budget walking or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

What do budget walking vacations entail?

Local operators

One of the best ways to find a budget trip is to use a vacation company based in the destination you want to visit. These specialists normally have far fewer overheads than an international business. Going direct to a smaller company cuts out the middle men, and these savings can be passed directly on to you, as some of our previous travelers explain below.
Seeking some Adriatic inspiration, Philip Jeffrey booked a self guided Croatia coast walking tour through a Dubrovnik-based specialist. “On top of the best service ever, their price was the most reasonable of all the tour groups I looked into,” he said. Ellen Turner had a similar finding when she booked her Catalonia self guided walking vacation. She found a long-standing specialist based in the area. “Larger tour operators offer a similar itinerary, but this operator can offer a cheaper deal with absolutely no loss of professional service standards,” she said.

Self guided or small group?

You can walk alone or in a group and either can be done inexpensively. Small groups normally have no more than 16 participants, and often a lot fewer. If you’re a solo traveler on a small group trip you may end up sharing a room (or a night under canvas) with another person of the same gender. On self guided walks you may need to spend a little bit of money on public transport to get to the start of your trail – but rest assured you’ll get plenty of support, maps and guidance along the way.

Long walks, short strolls

Generally a week is enough time to ramble around a region and really get to know it. Eight days or less fits nicely into a budget bracket, and is relatively kind on your feet. Just because you’re keeping costs low, there’s no need to punish yourself with long days and hard slogs. Many itineraries offer a choice of longer or shorter treks each day. On the other hand, if you want to walk the whole of the Camino de Santiago, you’ll need more than a week, but you still don’t need a big budget.

Bringing the family

Ah, the allure of an affordable vacation with kids. Not all walking vacations are suitable for children, but self guided vacations are the way to go, and there are a number of family-friendly budget walks. In France, kids will be enthralled by a walking vacation with your very own donkey porter, carrying your bags. Around Italy’s Lake Como, center-based walking is the way to go, as you can play each day by ear and adapt your walks according to everyone’s mood.

When is the best time to go?

One of the best ways to enjoy budget walking is to travel outside peak season. Not only is it cheaper getting there, and cheaper to stay, but you’re providing out-of-season income to towns and villages. Walking specialists will suggest times of year when the weather is still stable, and the paths are still safe. Off-season shouldn’t mean trails blocked by snow, or driving rain.
Written by Eloise Barker
Photo credits: [Page banner: Jerome Bon] [Budget walking icon: Matt Flores] [Top box: Institute for the Study of the Ancient World] [Go/don't go if: Robert J Heath] [Local operators: NH53] [Long walks, short strolls: Jose Antonio Gil Martinez]